Date
24 November 2017
Candles burn near a giant photo of Olympic swimmer Camille Muffat who was killed with nine others in a helicopter collision in Argentina. Photo: Reuters
Candles burn near a giant photo of Olympic swimmer Camille Muffat who was killed with nine others in a helicopter collision in Argentina. Photo: Reuters

Hollande pays tribute as France mourns sports heroes

France is mourning three sports stars killed in a helicopter collision in Argentina during a film shoot for a reality television show.

They were among 10 people who died after two helicopters collided Monday in a remote region in western La Rioja province.

There were no survivors, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Investigators removed the bodies of Olympic swimmer Camille Muffat, yachtswoman Florence Arthaud and boxer Alexis Vastine from the charred wreckage of the two aircraft but said it was still unclear what caused the accident.

Amateur footage taken from the ground shows the two helicopters flying in tandem at low altitude when one appears to deviate into the path of the other.

Both helicopters are then shown plunging to the ground.

A second video shows dozens of people rushing through the heavy undergrowth toward the helicopters’ burning wreckage.

French President Francois Hollande paid tribute to the athletes, saying they had “made France shine”.

“They are dead because they wanted to push the boundaries. They wanted to make new exploits known to the world, make people aware of new countries and regions,” Hollande said.

In Paris, an involuntary manslaughter investigation has begun, an automatic procedure when French citizens are killed abroad, a judicial source said.

As part of the TV show, other contestants were standing blindfolded on the ground a few hundred meters from the helicopters’ flight path, French media reported.

They ran to the crash site but could not extinguish the fire, an assistant to the contestants told French broadcaster RFI.

A magistrate judge at the site said all 10 bodies had been recovered and taken to a morgue in the provincial capital.

The two pilots and several members of the ALP-TV production company involved in filming the adventure show Dropped for private TV station TF1 were among the dead, officials said.

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